Editors note: On Tuesday, two days before the start of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock spent time with beat reporters from around the country answering questions about the teams they cover. Below is some of what he had to say about the 16 teams he was asked about, their draft needs and who they might -- or should -- be targeting.
Baltimore: Needs match draft's strengths
If you're a Ravens fan, you look at wide receiver and you look at corner and you say, "Luckily, this is a good year for both positions." So trust your board.
Who is going to be there at wide receiver when Baltimore picks at No. 25? Arrelious Benn from Illinois. I'm eager to see what he runs at the combine. Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech, I was told a couple weeks ago he was running in the high 4.3s at 224 pounds. If that's the case, given his production at Georgia Tech, it's hard to assess those guys because they're in an option attack, but they're two really logical guys for the Ravens at 25.
There's a lot of depth in this corner class. Let's assume Florida's Joe Haden's gone by the time Baltimore picks. The next four or five corners, there are a lot of differences of opinion. I like Kyle Wilson from Boise State. A lot of people think he's a second-round pick. There's a good chance he'll be there at 25. He's a heck of a player.
Buffalo: Tackle top priority
Offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa is the kind of kid that would fit perfectly in Buffalo. You're talking about a cold-weather kid that's tough. He's technique proficient. The only question I have on him is his arm length. We all remember a few years ago when the kid from Iowa, Robert Gallery, went really early to Oakland. He had 32-inch arms, struggled on the outside, had to kick him on the inside.
So Bulaga looks like he's got short arms. We haven't measured him yet. This week it will be interesting to see whether or not he's 33 inches or more. But his technique is tremendous. He's been coached very well. He's a tough kid. He's smart in both the run and pass game. So I think he's ready to start.
Anthony Davis from Rutgers, a junior, may be a little bit immature off the field, a little bit inconsistent. He's got the talent to play on the left side from Day 1. The coaching staff is going to have to grab his attention early and keep it, and if you take him that high, you're going to plug him in Day 1, and he's going to need to play at a high level. He's got a little bit of a work-ethic issue but he's supremely talented.
Trent Williams from Oklahoma is probably a little more suited for the right side. However, on tape, it sure looks like he can play on the left side. And, again, he's got a couple of off-the-field issues from a work-ethic perspective. But he's a kid that I think you could plug in.
Cincinnati: Tight end vs. wide receiver
You have to look at it compared to who's going to be out there at wide receiver and if you think Gresham provides more in the pass game because you need a big-play person in that offense. And if you think that tight end can alleviate some of the pressure on the outside guys, that's great. Then go with a tight end.
I think Gresham might be there. If not, Rob Gronkowski, the tight end from Arizona, is interesting for the same reasons. Both were hurt and didn't play a snap last year. Cincinnati has really got to evaluate those two tight ends. Both are big enough and strong enough to be inline tight ends, and they can be H-backs and move guys. I don't usually talk about tight ends in the first round unless I think they can become blockers, which both of these guys can. They understand leverage and they can block well enough to play tight end in the NFL.
And then the Bengals have to compare the tight ends to the wide receivers they may have an opportunity to pick. Dez Bryant is going to be gone. Where is Benn? Where is Thomas? How highly do they feel about Golden Tate or Brandon LaFell. And I think those are some of the questions they're asking right now.
Cleveland: Bryant would help QBs
The way I look at this team is you have to trust in the administration that you have there right now. You've got two proven guys in Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert who have drafted effectively over the years.
If you think there's a franchise quarterback and you need one, you have to draft one. Now, Cleveland's got to make some in-house decisions about the two quarterbacks they have sitting there.
But I think Cleveland has got to deal with their wide receiver and cornerback needs. And sitting there at No. 7, Bryant or Haden are the two real logical guys. And if Bryant slides down to No. 7, I think you've got to take him. Braylon Edwards is gone. Bryant is a big, physical wideout that instantly makes those quarterbacks better.
Green Bay: Protecting Rodgers
The logical guy for Green Bay who would probably be there at No. 23 is Bruce Campbell from Maryland. He's a junior that I thought should have stayed in school. I thought he really would have helped himself and been a potential high-level pick. The thing about him is he's very good in pass protection. And obviously with the age in the Packers' offensive line and a tremendous young quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, you've got to protect him.
Campbell is a guy who makes an awful lot of sense right there. But he's not a great run blocker. He's not a drive blocker. He's not an aggressive kid. He's much better kick sliding and protecting the quarterback, and actually that's what Green Bay needs.
If they don't go tackle with their top pick, I really think Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham might be there. He'll fit some teams and not others. He's got a great motor and an ability to rush the quarterback, and he's very stout against the run. Teams are going to ding him a little bit for his size and his arm length, but he passes all the smell tests on tape. He played really well against Bulaga from Iowa. And he had a tremendous Senior Bowl week.
Indianapolis: Tackling problems
Typically there's seven or eight defensive tackles taken in the first three rounds of the draft, but I've got about 13 defensive tackles with grades in the first three rounds this year. And they're of all shapes and sizes. The Colts traditionally have had some undersized guys. But they need a big body in there. In this draft, you can get the big body or you can get the quick 3-technique.
From the offensive tackle side, there's four guys, I think, who are going in the first nine picks or so. And then there are three guys worthy of first- or second-round picks after that, and at least one will be there when the Colts pick at 31. The three guys after the first four are Charles Brown from USC; Massachusetts' Vladimir Ducasse, who struggled a little bit at the Senior Bowl but is a very talented kid, huge kid; and Campbell from Maryland, a tremendous pass blocker, not as good on his run game. After that, I think there's a drop-off.
Kansas City: Value at No. 5
And if you think about it, Scott Pioli, the GM for the Chiefs, is a good friend and admirer of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. He loves the type of technician that Kirk develops with offensive linemen. So it wouldn't surprise me if Bulaga went as early as No. 5 to Kansas City.
Miami: Linebacker or wide receiver?
If Bryant is gone when the Dolphins pick at 12, I like Sergio Kindle from Texas. I think he fits a need. He's a 3-4 rush linebacker who played defensive end at Texas. I think he's more polished as an outside linebacker than Brian Orakpo when he came out last year, and Orakpo had a heck of a year for Washington.
Kindle for me is the logical guy, because I think Bryant will be gone. And then they've got to make a decision whether or not they think Benn or Thomas would make sense. And Thomas broke his foot last week. He's going to be a little bit of an enigma, because he probably won't be able to run prior to the draft.
I'm hearing a lot of people talking about Rolando McClain vs. an outside linebacker. To me, in Miami's 3-4 defense, I think the outside linebacker is more important. So if Kindle was there at 12, I'd pull the trigger on him. I think he's an explosive edge rusher who would instantly upgrade that team.
I don't think there's any way in the world Bryant gets there. So if he's gone, does another wide receiver warrant consideration at 12? I think that's some of the discussion that's going on right now with the Dolphins.
Minnesota: Safety in numbers
Obviously, the biggest issue for the Vikings is at quarterback, and nobody knows what Brett Favre is going to do. You've got to ask yourself whether or not you're happy with Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels, and whether or not there's a move either through free agency or the draft. That's something they've got to be thinking internally.
Outside of the quarterback position, the defensive backfield, to me, can take some upgrading, especially since Antoine Winfield is getting older. He got hurt, and the other corner, Cedric Griffin, got hurt, too.
The safety position, I think, has upgraded itself a little bit athletically. But you've got to be looking at the backside of your defense and saying, "Okay, where we're drafting happens to hit depth in this class." You can get a really good safety, a really good corner late in the first, second or third round. That's a real logical place for the Vikings.
I think Earl Thomas from Texas is the best safety in the draft now. He won't go ahead of Tennessee's Eric Berry, but that kid is an amazing playmaker and suited for today's NFL. Taylor Mays from USC will probably be there when the Vikings pick at 30. I don't think he's anywhere as instinctive as Thomas, but he's a big, strong, tough guy in the middle of the field.
I think that is the Vikings' biggest area of need. And then I think you've got to be looking at that offensive tackle position and a complementary tailback.
New England: Edge rusher needed
What the Patriots do really well is, they understand the players who fit the Patriot system, and to me they've got to get younger and more athletic on the back end. It started last year with the drafting of safety Patrick Chung and cornerback Darius Butler. They need somebody who can rush the quarterback, and I think that's got to be a priority. You've got to find an edge rusher who can get to the quarterback.
I also wouldn't discount the fact that they need a wide receiver. Between Wes Welker's ACL and Randy Moss' age and contract situation, I think wide receiver comes into play a little bit with the second-round picks, and there's an awful lot of good receivers in the second round.
Oakland: Difficult to predict
If you followed what I've said the last few years, basically I said JaMarcus Russell was the most gifted college quarterback I've ever seen. However, I wouldn't take him with a first-round pick. I said Darren McFadden's lower body went dead on contact. As much as I liked his speed, I didn't think he could make people miss, and I couldn't take him in the top 15 or top 20 of the draft. And Darrius Heyward-Bey, to me, was just a work in progress. No way he should have been a high first-round pick. So I'm on the record with all three of those guys saying I felt the Raiders reached because of the height-weight-speed scenario.
As far as this year is concerned, for me it's probably too early to tell what they're going to do. However, in my head, I think offensive tackle becomes a primary need. There are four of them that might go in the first nine or 10 picks. Kansas City at No. 5, Seattle at No. 6, Oakland at No. 8, and Buffalo at No. 9 all have big offensive tackle needs, and after those four guys there's a drop-off.
Pittsburgh: Centers of attention
You know how important the defensive tackle position is. Casey Hampton might be an unrestricted free agent. He'll be 33 by the start of next season, so you've got to be looking at what's next with him. In this draft, Dan Williams from Tennessee, Jared Odrick from Penn State and Brian Price from UCLA are all quality first-round guys.
San Diego: Can wait on running back
From a running back perspective, I think it's a great year, so you don't have to get a running back in the first round if you're the Chargers. But I have C.J. Spiller as the 11th best player in the draft and the first running back, and that's because he's a three-phase guy: He can play running back, he catches the football, and he's a killer in the return game. After that, it gets kind of interesting, because it depends on your flavor.
For instance, Ryan Mathews from Fresno State might make some sense in San Diego. I think he's got as good balance as any running back I've seen in this year's draft. Highly productive. He's had some injury and durability issues. Some people think he's a late first-round pick. I'd put a second-round grade on him, because I'm not sure he's got an elite burst and acceleration. But I'm eager to see what he runs at 220 pounds. He could end up running 4.38 or 4.40, and that would be pretty interesting because he's a very talented kid.
I've got Jahvid Best from Cal with a second-round grade, because of the concussion and uncertainties around that, and his size -- probably the only reason that anybody has him with a second-round grade because he's got first-round ability. Makes people miss, home-run hitter.
Jonathan Dwyer from Georgia Tech, I thought he played a little heavy this year, around 240 pounds. Rumors are that he's lost close to 20 pounds. He's going to be down there in the 220-225 range. If he runs in the 4.4s at 225, you're going to see some people just pushing him upwards very quickly.
Then I've got Joe McKnight from USC and Dexter McCluster from Ole Miss. I think McCluster is too much like Darren Sproles. And the question I think that people in San Diego have to be asking is do they want the complement to the Sproles-type guy, which means do you want a bigger guy that can push the pile? And if that's the case, I think Mathews and Dwyer are logical guys early on.
St. Louis: Quarterback needed
St. Louis has to be looking at Sam Bradford. They've been drafting high for several years now and have not taken a developed quarterback. They really don't have a quarterback in their building right now. So bottom line is, St. Louis has the same decision-making process right now that Washington does.
How much do we believe in Bradford and how much do we believe in our medical reports about Bradford? Quite frankly, franchise quarterback trumps everything. But it's going to be hard to trump those two defensive tackles.
You better be 100 percent convinced that Bradford is your guy for the next 10 years because you're going to be passing up a future All-Pro defensive tackle by doing so.
Seattle: What to do with two first-rounders?
Pete Carroll has a head start over most of the other head coaches in the NFL. Coming out of the college ranks, he knows his team, and he knows the Pac-10 intimately. Most NFL coaches don't get caught up in the draft until the season is over, and they get brought up to speed by the GM. I think his knowledge of this year's class will help.
At this point, I think Seattle is going to end up taking a left tackle with its pick at No. 6. And they need to. And when you come back around at 14, then you've got to ask yourself a couple of different questions: How long is Matt Hasselbeck going to play? If Jimmy Clausen is available, are you looking at him?
A defensive end makes an awful lot of sense there. A guy that would provide value might be Derrick Morgan from Georgia Tech. Tremendous motor, high production, fits into what they do scheme-wise on defense.
Do they have to look at running back and safety? I think they do. But I think offensive tackle and somebody to rush the passer ought to be prominent among those first three picks.
Tampa Bay: Defense comes first
The Bucs have got significant defensive needs, and if they get an opportunity to take either one of those defensive tackles, they ought to sprint to the podium and hand the card in.
After that, they also have to look at the defensive end position. They had one or fewer sacks in 10 or 11 games last year. They had trouble getting to the quarterback, and the late Gaines Adams never really developed into what they were hoping for. So would they take a look at South Florida's Jason Pierre-Paul that early? I think he warrants it from a talent perspective. I like his motor, but you're gambling a little bit on a guy who was really only a half-year starter at the Division I level because he was a transfer.
I also think you have to look at Bryant at No. 3. He's my No. 3-rated player in this draft. You've got a young quarterback in Josh Freeman that you're trying to develop, and the best thing you can do for him is get him an Andre Johnson-type receiver.
Washington: Franchise QB a must
The first decision the Redskins have to make is at the quarterback position. And if you believe there's a franchise quarterback that may be available at No. 4, that trumps all other needs in my opinion. If you think Bradford is a franchise quarterback and that right shoulder is going to stand up medically, then I believe you've got to take him.
Now having said that, there's a school of thought out there also that you better upgrade the offensive line before you draft the young quarterback. But I always go back to the franchise-quarterback-trumps-everything theory. So if Bradford or Clausen, in your opinion, is the guy, you've got to take one of them at No. 4. And you've got to develop your young quarterback.
I do think Bradford will be their at four. If he's not, now you've got to evaluate Clausen and take it a step further. I don't think he's as polished or as accurate as Bradford. I think he's going to be a first-round quarterback. I don't think he gets past, say, somewhere around 13 or 14, where San Francisco and Seattle come into play. I think it's a little high at No. 4 for Clausen, given the questions regarding leadership and some of those intangibles.
I believe when the Redskins come around again at 37, there's going to be a tackle there. I've got seven offensive tackles and then a drop-off. And I believe six of them may go this year in that first round. But I think the seventh guy still may be out there, the sixth guy may be out there. So franchise quarterback first, and then I think you've got to go get an offensive tackle.